12 Month Ironman Training Plan – UPDATED 2021 – Beginner Ironman Training
Does it only take a 12-month Ironman training plan to complete an Ironman? Ironman has become a global sport in 2019, and many beginner triathletes are moving straight to the Ironman distance. Many are looking at ways to endure the event in less than 1 year.
Beginners Ironman Training Plan
Most beginner triathletes make the decision 12 months before their first Ironman. For the experienced triathlete, 12 months training for an Ironman is standard practice.
Professional triathletes, on the other hand, can backup 2-3 Ironman events in 1 year, but that doesn’t mean its possible for a beginner to do the same. For us, ordinary people, a 16-week Ironman training plan or 24-week Ironman training plan allows for adequate planning and preparation. (Beginners starting from scratch should plan a 1-2 year Ironman training plan)
How Long to Train for an Ironman
A beginner triathlete needs to start with 12 months of training to complete an Ironman. A 1-year Ironman training plan allows the beginner triathlete to adapt to the levels of stress and fitness needed for the event. Experienced triathletes that haven’t completed an Ironman before are more likely to handle training much more comfortable than the beginner.
New triathletes with a background in a similar endurance sport can sometimes make the journey in less than 12 months. Depending entirely on the sport they have come from and their aerobic capacity from that sport.
12 Month Ironman Ironman Training Plan
A 12-month Ironman training plan (52-week Ironman training plan) or even a 2-year Ironman training plan is critical to a successful Ironman for the beginner. Time helps the body’s ability to handle the training load needed to complete their first Ironman event. While not common practice for everyone, I have seen beginner triathletes take six months to 10 months to complete their first Ironman, and others have taken more than 2-3 years.
6 Month Ironman Training Plan
If you already have a basis of fitness behind you in triathlon, it can be possible to tackle the Ironman with six months of training. This is the time to take stock of your fitness and start forming training habits, like building your base and working on weaknesses and strengths.
During this period, try to focus on five key sessions each week. You could break the period into phases such as:
Six months out:
During this phase, try to increase each discipline by roughly ten percent each week and aim for five sessions each week.
Five months out:
Continue to increase your overall volume each week by no more than 10 percent. During the start of this phase its good to allow a recovery week before increasing the amount for the next three weeks.
Four months out:
Start this period with a recovery week. Continue to build your cycling and running volume by 10 percent and at the end of this phase complete another recovery week to allow adaption and recovery.
Three months out:
During the last three months before your Ironman, it is an excellent time to include an Olympic distance of half Ironman into your training. This should be around six to eight weeks before your Ironman and will allow some race simulation to test your current fitness.
Two months out:
This is the period where you need to increase the intensity and focus on workouts that bring up your speed. Race pace efforts and above are a vital part of bringing up your form for Ironman. Your overall volume should slightly decline, and you can continue to add in brick sessions to your training.
One month out:
With most of the training done, you have a small amount of time to sharpen up and taper. During this period, the intensity should be slightly higher than the previous month, and the volume should start declining to Ironman race day.
Training Plan for Ironman
Work commitments, family, and weather play a role in how you plan your first Ironman training plan. The best ironman training plan for you should be adjusted to your lifestyle to allow more time to prepare. With a lot of the Swedish triathletes, the harsh and dark winters affect early-season events. For these triathletes, we base our training plan around an Ironman race in the latter part of the year. This allows most of the high mileage period to be implemented in the warmer part of the year, which also coincides with Swedish summer vacation.
With the Ironman event scheduled later in the year, this allows our more experienced Swedish athletes to have the correct offseason. The offseason enables us to work on their weakness or injuries they have and complete their largest block of training in warmer conditions.
Best Ironman Training Plan
When putting together the best Ironman training plan, knowing the body’s strength can be an advantage. Are you a stronger cyclist? Faster swimmer? Or a stronger runner? These three questions can help decide which event you should target and how the foundation of the plan should be. Focusing on your strengths allow you to take advantage of the conditions and allow a more enjoyable first Ironman event.
If you are a complete beginner triathlete, learning to understand your strengths from training and your past background can help determine a suitable event to enter. Your Ironman training plan can also be based around this, helping you to train for the race.
Signing up or your First Ironman Event
Before signing up for your first Ironman event, a base of experience is needed. We see more success with athletes that have an extended build uptime and complete sprint triathlon, Olympic distance triathlon, and half-ironman events before tackling the Ironman.
It takes time for the body to adapt to new stresses. Focusing on a 1-year Ironman training plan ( or 2-year Ironman training plan) will allow the body to have a steady progression. A smart strategy is to build your fitness through an Olympic distance and half Ironman before the Ironman, without the added risk of injury or illness.